£200,000 bill for policing protests over Scout hut in Thurnby Lodge, Leicester
Police have spent £200,000 supervising protests against plans to turn a disused Scout hut into a community centre.
The cost of the operation in Thurnby Lodge, Leicester, is rising daily as discussions continue to resolve the building's future.
Officers from city stations and as far afield as Hinckley and Coalville have had to be redeployed from their normal duties to oversee regular protests – occasionally lasting late into the night – against a plan by the Muslim group As-Salaam Trust to convert the Nursery Road building into a community centre.
The protests, which began early last month, have taken place outside the nearby community centre in Thurncourt Road, where members of As-Salaam have been meeting for the past two-and-a-half years.
Cheap Van Insurance For 17,18 & 19 Year Old Drivers - Call Insure365 01782 898188, Free Legal Protection Cover Included valued at £25.00!
Terms: 1 Voucher Per Customer
Contact: 01782 898188
Valid until: Monday, June 24 2013
The Leicester Mercury has learned that the operation cost the force £180,000 in August.
A source has confirmed it is now edging toward £200,000, including overtime payments.
The source said: "£200,000 is a big hit, especially in these times of tightened budgets.
"But we can't turn our backs and say 'sorry, we can't justify the cost of this any more'.
"If something did go wrong and we weren't there, we'd be slated – and rightly so.
"I hope a solution is found soon."
Up to 60 officers have been sent to cover the largest protests, one of which drew up to 400 people.
On quieter evenings, between 20 and 30 police, with senior officers to supervise, have been sent. Officers were present at the weekend, though no formal protests were taking place.
The impact on the force has been intensified by its commitment to send officers to help with the security operation at the Olympic Games.
An officer who has been involved in the Thurnby Lodge operation said: "This is what we do.
"We are here to protect the public and to prevent disorder, but people need to bear in mind this is taking officers away from their duties elsewhere."
The city council said it was working with a newly founded residents' group, the Forgotten Estate Committee, to improve facilities.
Some residents have said they would prefer the Scout hut to be developed for the wider community, with many supporting a proposal to turn it into a boxing club and community gym.
They are also concerned about extra traffic the building might create if it became a community centre.
Assistant city mayor Sarah Russell said: "It is right the police are there to facilitate protests but there is a cost.
"We are continuing discussions to try to find a suitable alternative for As-Salaam.
"We're also working hard with the residents' committee.
"We're helping them secure funding and offering other practical support."
Maxine Williams, manager of the Stirrup Cup pub on the estate, has been helping to organise the protests and is a member of the new residents' group.
She said: "We still have between a dozen and 50 people gathering every day and we are holding a march every Friday.
"It is a lot of money but we are being listened to now, although there has been no resolution."
Last month, As-Salaam's imam, Mohammed Lockhat, said: "We are negotiating with the council. We live in Thurnby Lodge and we would not want to have to travel far to pray."